Widespread Panic

Widespread Panic

by James Ellroy
Widespread Panic

Widespread Panic

by James Ellroy


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Ninteen-fifties Hollywood! This is PURE Ellroy territory. Mystery, crime, HollyWEIRD Babylon all wrap themselves into a literary knockout fever dream that only Ellroy could dream up. If you’re looking for us, we’ll be located at a booth in Musso & Frank Grill with a scotch in one hand and Widespread Panic in the other. And when you're done here, there’s more Hollywood gone awry in The Disappearing Actby Catherine Steadman.

From the modern master of noir comes a novel based on the real-life Hollywood fixer Freddy Otash, the malevolent monarch of the 1950s L.A. underground, and his Tinseltown tabloid Confidential magazine.

Freddy Otash was the man in the know and the man to know in ‘50s L.A. He was a rogue cop, a sleazoid private eye, a shakedown artist, a pimp—and, most notably, the head strong-arm goon for Confidential magazine.

Confidential presaged the idiot internet—and delivered the dirt, the dish, the insidious ink, and the scurrilous skank. It mauled misanthropic movie stars, sex-soiled socialites, and putzo politicians. Mattress Jack Kennedy, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Burt Lancaster, Liz Taylor, Rock Hudson—Frantic Freddy outed them all. He was the Tattle Tyrant who held Hollywood hostage, and now he’s here to CONFESS.

“I’m consumed with candor and wracked with recollection. I’m revitalized and resurgent. My meshugenah march down memory lane begins NOW.”

In Freddy’s viciously entertaining voice, Widespread Panic torches 1950s Hollywood to the ground. It’s a blazing revelation of coruscating corruption, pervasive paranoia, and of sin and redemption with nothing in between.

Here is James Ellroy in savage quintessence. Freddy Otash confesses—and you are here to read and succumb.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593319345
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/15/2021
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 1,126,552
Product dimensions: 9.00(w) x 6.60(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

About The Author
JAMES ELLROY was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the Underworld U.S.A. Trilogy: American Tabloid, The Cold Six Thousand, and Blood's A Rover, and the L.A. Quartet novels: The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz. He lives in Colorado.

Read an Excerpt

Harry said, “Be useful, kid. There’s a cop killer at Georgia Street. Chief Horrall thinks you should take care of it. This is an opportunity you don’t want to pass up.”  
I said, “Take care of what? The cop he shot isn’t dead.”  
Harry rolled his eyes. He passed me a key fob. He said, “4-A-32. It’s in the watch commander’s space. Look under the backseat.”  
I got it. Harry locked on my look. He went Nooowww, he gets it. He winked and waltzed away from me.  
I steadied myself and stood still. I loaded up on that lynch-mob gestalt. I lurched through the squadroom and zombie-walked downstairs. I hit the garage.  
I found the watch commander’s space. There’s 4-A-32. The key fits the ignition. The garage was dark. Ceiling pipes leaked. Water drops turned wiggy colors and morphed into wild shapes.  
I gunned the gas and pulled out onto Spring Street. I drove sloooooow. The heist geek was jacked in the jail ward. It was a lockup-transfer ruse. It was forty-three years ago. It’s still etched in Sinemascope and surround sound. I can still see the passersby on the street.  
There it is. There’s Georgia Street Receiving.  
The jail ward sat on the north side. The squarejohn ward sat to the south. A narrow pathway bisected the buildings. It hit me then:  
They know you’ll do it. They know you’re that kind of guy.  
I reached under the backseat. I pulled out transfer papers for Ralph Mitchell Horvath. I grabbed a .32 snubnose revolver.  
I put the gun in my front pocket and grabbed the papers. I slid out of the sled. I popped down the pathway and went through the jail-ward door. 
The deskman was PD. He pointed to a punk cuffed to a drainpipe. The punk wore a loafer jacket and slit-bottomed khakis. He sported a left-arm splint. He was acne-addled and chancre-sored. He vibed hophead. He looked smack-back insolent. 
The deskman did the knife-across-throat thing. I handed him the papers and uncuffed and recuffed the punk. The deskman said, “Bon voyage, sweetheart.” 
I shoved the punk outside and pointed him up the pathway. He walked ahead of me. I couldn’t feel my feet. I couldn’t feel my legs. My heart hammered on overdrive. I lost my limbs somewhere. 
There’s no telltale windows. There’s no pedestrians on Georgia Street. There’s no witnesses. 
I pulled the gun from my pocket and fired over my own head. The gun kicked and lashed life back in my limbs. My pulse topped 200 rpms. 
The punk wheeled around. He moved his lips. A word came out as a squeak. I pulled my service revolver and shot him in the mouth. His teeth exploded. He dropped. I placed the throwdown piece in his right hand. 
He tried to say “Please.” This dream’s a routine reenactment. The details veer and vary. The “Please” always sticks. I’m alive. He’s not. That’s the baleful bottom line. 
The cop lived. He sustained a through-and-through wound. He was back on duty inside a week. 
Vicious vengeance. Wrathfully wrong in retrospect. A crack in the crypt of my soul. Harry Fremont passed the word. Freddy O. is kosher. Chief C. B. Horrall sent me a jug of Old Crow. The grand jury sacked him two months later. He got caught up in a call-girl racket. An interim chief was brought in. 
Ralph Mitchell Horvath. 1918–1949. Car thief/stickup man/weenie wagger. Hooked on yellow jackets and muscatel. 
Ralphie left a widow and two kids. I got the gust-wind guilts and shot them penance payoffs. Money orders. Once a month. Fake signatures. All anonymous. Dig—Ralphie’s dead, and I’m not.

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